October 14, 2014

Field-aligned currents and parallel electric field potential drops at Mars.Scaling from the Earth' aurora

Dubinin E. et Al.
Planetary and Space Science, 56,6,868-872

Summary: The observations of electron inverted 'V' structures by the MGS and MEX spacecraft, their resemblance to similar events in the auroral regions of the Earth, and the discovery of strong localized magnetic field sources of the crustal origin on Mars, raised hypotheses on the existence of Martian aurora produced by electron acceleration in parallel electric fields. Following the theory of this type of structures on Earth we perform a scaling analysis to the Martian conditions. Similar to the Earth, upward field-aligned currents necessary for the generation of parallel potential drops and peaked electron distributions can arise, for example, on the boundary between 'closed' and 'open' crustal field lines due to shears of the flow velocity of the magnetosheath or magnetospheric plasmas. A steady-state configuration assumes a closure of these currents in the Martian ionosphere. Due to much smaller magnetic fields as compared to the Earth case, the ionospheric Pedersen conductivity is much higher on Mars and auroral field tubes with parallel potential drops and relatively small cross scales to be adjusted to the scales of the localized crustal patches may appear only if the magnetosphere and ionosphere are decoupled by a zone with a strong E. Another scenario suggests a periodic short-circuit of the magnetospheric electric fields by a coupling with the conducting ionosphere.